Hello again, sorry it’s been awhile; bronchitis has no respect for the blogger’s schedule! Spending a week on antibiotics and steroids and getting “shotgunned” in the booty with anti-inflammatory meds will squash the creative mind just a tad. Unable to go to work; I’ve browsed the web, updated my Facebook, played some Bookworm, slept medication fueled naps, and now days later can finally see the light at the end of the coughing, sniffling, headachy, congested, feel like I’m gonna croak, tunnel. Anyway, let’s talk Prevention again…cause substance abuse and HIV/AIDS don’t take a sick day.
I wanted to use today’s blog to tell you about prevention programs currently in our area. The Health Service Center (HSC-my employer) is a not-for –profit medical center, with a primary mission of providing medical and supportive services for persons living with HIV in 14 counties of N.E. Alabama. As part of our mission we also seek to provide community education around HIV, substance abuse, and other risk factors that contribute to new infections and poor health outcomes for our community. www.hscal.org
Since the founding of HSC in the late 1980s, the agency has made it a priority to seek grants and funding for prevention education. HIV infection can be prevented, recovery from addiction is possible, education is the key. Beginning in the year 2000, HSC was granted funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) www.samhsa.gov for community programs that provided street outreach, prevention education, HIV testing, safer sex supplies distribution, and referral and support for any who were found to be HIV positive. Several grants have been funded over the last few years and currently three SAMSHA grant funded prevention projects are operating in our area. Let me tell you about them.
Project REAL (Reentry, Education and Linkages) 2008-2013. The REAL project is a program focused on the at-risk person who is reentering their community after incarceration. Research has shown that many persons reenter their community without the information and skills they need to protect themselves and others from risky sexual and drug using behaviors. We are familiar with the significant challenges facing someone coming back home after prison or jail, such as; housing, health concerns, job training, parenting and family issues, addiction, domestic violence, financial difficulties, stigma, discrimination, etc. (the list goes on and on). For the reentering individual it may seem overwhelming when told to walk out the prison gates and “get your act together”. The rates of recidivism or those who return to prison, in Alabama reaches over 60% in some areas. That’s not working, folks! The Alabama Dept. of Corrections and other local, state and federal agencies are working to provide discharge planning and linkage to community services for the reentering person so that there is help for that mountain of obstacles. That’s where Project REAL comes in.
If you have a recent history of incarceration, are over 19 years old, have a history of drug and alcohol use and/or risky sexual behaviors, you may qualify for the REAL program. REAL hopes to reach minorities and those who often don’t have prevention support upon release from prison or jail. Our Reentry Services Specialist makes an effort to network with all local law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, and other organizations or agencies who work with the reentry population. A simple call to a Project REAL staffer at 256-832-0100 can get information to anyone who might benefit from the program. The program offers: 90 days of program support - with individual prevention counseling over 5-7 sessions with a Prevention Case Manager, goals setting, education and skills building, free HIV testing and counseling, and referral and information for other needs not provided by HSC. REAL participants are able to learn the basic facts about substance abuse and HIV, how to negotiate condom use and proper use of condoms, how to access needed services such as GED training and family and parenting skills, and referral info for intensive substance abuse treatment, if needed. Project REAL can be a building block for the reentry person’s plan for successfully ‘starting over’. Call HSC for more info on Project REAL, and follow the project on Facebook at Project REAL, Reentry Education and Linkages.
The Vortex Project 2010-2015. Vortex will provide comprehensive substance abuse and HIV prevention services targeting minority females ages 19-24, particularly on area college campuses. Current partners are Jacksonville State University, Talladega College, and Gadsden State Community College. Due to a variety of factors, Alabama and other areas are seeing a rising trend of HIV infections among young adult females, especially African Americans. www.adph.org Vortex prevention staff will be providing on-campus interventions that include free HIV testing and counseling, 2 private sessions of individual prevention counseling, and campus outreach. The program hopes to achieve community and environmental change by offering training sessions, awareness events, public speakers, testing events and health fairs. The connection between drug and alcohol abuse and HIV infection is a powerful factor that requires education and easy access to prevention services to combat - especially critical is testing and counseling. Knowing your HIV status, whether negative or positive is crucial; it’s cool to know your status and we have to spread that message to our young women and their partners. Look for the Vortex RV or exhibit table at campus events, stop by for free prevention supplies, pick up some educational materials, and ask how you can be a part of our Peer Advisory Groups, (forming now). Call HSC and ask for a Vortex staff member for more info, 256-832-0100.
The Revolution Project 2010-2015. Similar to the Vortex Project, Revolution is funded to provide prevention services to young adult females, especially African Americans, ages 19-24 in our N.E. Alabama community. Revolution hopes to reduce substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors through the provision of HIV testing and counseling, and with the operation of a community “drop-in-center”. Located at 320 East 15th Street in Anniston, AL. the center is open now, (see picture) offering free HIV testing and counseling, prevention education activities, and linkage and referral to other prevention related services in our area. Young adult females who qualify can enroll in a two-session program called RESPECT, get a free HIV test, pick-up safer sex supplies, and earn gifts and prizes, etc. The Revolution staff will be in the Calhoun and Etowah County community, providing public speaking, health fairs, and testing events, and hope to see you at the drop-in-center soon! Call Revolution for more info. 256-405-4104. Revolution will be forming their Peer Advisory Group over the next few months, you could play a role in reducing substance abuse and HIV among young women in your community, call us now!
So, as you can see there is amazing prevention activity going on in our community right now! We hope to make a difference, get you involved, and create a prevention prepared community that is healthier and safer!
Some of you may ask - why are we focused on specific groups (reentry, young women, minorities, etc.) rather than just general prevention programs and messages? There are many reasons that we might give, but one of the most important is that the community issues around substance abuse and HIV are PUBLIC HEALTH issues. They affect us all, and in today’s difficult economic times and budget cuts to health care and social service programs; it is imperative that we get the “most bang for our buck” from our grant funds. When statistics and research indicate that specific groups need special attention, with age, gender and culturally sensitive programs; that is what we make every effort to do! HSC is a small, rural agency. We cannot do it alone! With our small and well trained staff we work with our community partners, other area non-profits, churches, schools, clubs, businesses, etc. to achieve program successes. We need your voice and your participation. Your “word of mouth” is the best marketing and public relations we could have. We are counting on you.
I’ll sign off today with a few links for you to check out if you’d like more information about prevention. Enjoy. Please leave a comment if you have questions or would like to know more about a specific prevention related topic.
http://dasis3.samhsa.gov/ Substance Abuse Treatment Program Locator
http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=36 The Minority AIDS Initiative
http://www.doc.state.al.us/reentryresources.asp Alabama Dept. Of Corrections Reentry Resources
http://adph.org/aids/assets/manifestoupdate08.pdf The Southern AIDS Coalition’s AIDS Manifesto for the South
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/women/index.htm CDC Report on HIV and Women
http://aids.gov/ HIV/AIDS Resources
http://www.statehealthfacts.org/profileglance.jsp?rgn=2# Alabama Women’s Health Facts